As India deals with rising COVID-19 infection rates, the Canadian government is considering new measures to prevent the virus from spreading through international travel. According to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, the federal government is considering what tools it can have at its disposal. Blair stated that certain flights into Canada could be grounded and that they could “deal more effectively” when passengers present falsified test results. In the last two weeks, 35 flights from India with at least one COVID-19 case on board arrived in Canada.
On Wednesday, the first case of the B.1.617 variant, which was discovered in India, was reported in Quebec. “We have a small window of opportunity to act, and we must act now,” says Dr. Theresa O’Toole of Health Canada. Last week, the Public Health Agency of Canada backed down on its recommendation for additional screening measures for travelers arriving in Canada from Brazil, citing a lack of clear evidence that it added “operational value.” In Western Canada, the P.1 variant associated with Brazil was already on the rise.
With over 314,000 new infections reported on Thursday, India had the highest one-day tally of new COVID-19 cases in the world. The country also reported 2,104 new virus-related deaths, the most in a 24-hour period. Because of the current coronavirus situation in India, the United Kingdom has imposed a travel ban on most visitors from that country. According to India’s health ministry, the increasing number of cases has resulted in acute shortages of beds and medicine, as well as low oxygen supply in a large number of hospitals. The government has dispatched oxygen tankers to restock hospital supplies.
Kelley Lee is Simon Fraser University’s Canada Research Chair in global health governance. She believes that everyone who enters Canada should be subjected to a package of measures, including “gold standard” testing and quarantining. The required hotel stays upon arrival in Canada should be extended, testing should be more frequent, and quarantine accountability should be increased. Manitoba and North Dakota are collaborating on a joint initiative to help essential workers get vaccinated as they travel between the two states on a regular basis.